Random Movies: Best to Worst

Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name is easily my favourite film of 2017. It’s gorgeous to look at, the soundtrack is amazing, and there’s something almost hypnotic about the way it transports you into the easy rhythms of a summer spent at the beach. Armie Hammer is also exceptionally well cast, since his dorky white bread energy adds layers to the character that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

To a large degree, this is a coming of age story where the no-longer-a-child-not-yet-an-adult vibe is complicated by a sexual relationship between the teen in question and an adult. And it’s complicated in a good way, in that the film takes an unusually clear-eyed, even-tempered interest in how differences in age affect relationships.

This is a touchy topic, and I’m tempted to offer disclaimers about it, but the truth is that I didn’t really feel uncomfortable about anybody’s age watching the film. It’s a very sensitive, introspective story, and I think the film does all the heavy lifting on its own as far as looking at the pros and cons of its central relationship. There’s nothing super dark about it, but it also isn’t glib.

The Shape of Water

In one sense, the entire A-plot of The Shape of Water is a metaphor for how we have a duty to help people who are different from us, to see our common humanity, and to love each other. In another sense, it’s a movie where the two white characters would literally rather hug a fish monster who ate their cat than march for civil rights.

It’s not a bad movie, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I’d gone into it without knowing the premise in advance, because, once you know it’s a love story between a woman who can’t talk and a fish monster, there aren’t a lot of surprises. Still, it’s a pretty cool idea, and the underwater stuff looks great.

John Wick 2

I went into this without ever having seen John Wick 1, but I liked it. The cinematography is absolutely outstanding, and it’s impressive how much this film feels like something based on a graphic novel without actually being based on a graphic novel. It feels like there’s a whole universe of really well-thought-out ideas behind it – a mythology that’s only hinted at in the sparse dialogue of the film. I also dig the thing where he obviously works for the devil but nobody comes out and says it.

What I don’t dig as much is action sequences that bleed into more action sequences relentlessly and, if you asked me to recap the plot of this movie for you, I wouldn’t be able to.

Discussion question: In a movie about making a deal with the devil (maybe literally), what does it mean that so many people get stabbed with their own knives? Like, seriously, so many people?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Basically, everything I liked about the first movie is still in this movie – it’s a more feminist, inclusive vision of the Star Wars universe that does something new with the franchise and swerves in ways we don’t expect. It has a good message about how people from humble beginnings can learn to be strong with the Force. I suddenly ship Rey with Kylo Ren because the actors have so much chemistry together. I like that, symbolically, the entire movie is a changing of the guard that sets us up for something totally different in the final chapter. But, just as above, if you asked me to tell you the plot of this movie, I couldn’t. The beginning and the end are pretty clear, but the middle feels like people running off in all directions to fill time.

There’s also a weird jump at the end where Rey suddenly appears with no explicit explanation of how she got from point A to point B, and an entire sub-plot that wouldn’t have happened if Laura Dern’s character had just told everyone what she was planning instead of keeping it a secret.

Atomic Blonde

I like the 80s soundtrack and some of the outfits, and it’s cool to see a female action hero fight in a “gritty,” realistic way that doesn’t involve super powers. I’m not super into the spy vs spy vs spy stuff, but this movie has style.

War Dogs

This was better than I thought it was going to be in that it was kind of funny in a dark, war-profiteering way. Whether it’s right or wrong to laugh about that, I don’t know, but there seems to be a genre of American cinema where it’s okay to celebrate the conman for his chutzpah, as long as he’s indicted at the end.

The Man from UNCLE (2015)

This movie feels super bland and also kind of dated, like everyone just decided to do a straightforward adaptation of an old TV show and hope that somehow stuck.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

I am the rare viewer who went into this movie without knowing what the ending was ahead of time, and I’m underwhelmed that the solution is “It’s okay to stab someone to death if he’s a really bad person.” I’m also underwhelmed that its entire reason to exist seems to be for Kenneth Branagh to convince the world that he can disappear into Poirot. Also, there’s something whack about the lighting.

Image: Call Me By Your Name; Sony Pictures Classics | January 1, 2018